How do you have fun without busting your budget? We’ve talked a lot about venturing out without spending a lot of money, but let’s talk about gear. How can you get the things you need for your favorite hobbies, sports, home, for the best price?
If you are just starting a new hobby, you probably don’t want to invest a lot of money until you know that you are going to like it and have the time to participate in it. I’ve tried a lot of different things that I’ve loved doing but then found out that I really didn’t have the extra time to do it very much. If you can borrow or rent gear you can try it out a bit before you buy. You can even test out several types of gear before you decide what style/model/size you like best.
Big ticket items are a great thing to rent first, you may decide that the boat you love is more work than you wanted, or that the type of RV you like doesn’t really maneuver through traffic like you had hoped. Or quite simply that it is cheaper to rent once or twice a year rather put a lot of money into something that then needs license plates, insurance, maintenance, and maybe storage.
Once you decide to buy, check to see if you can find your fishing rod, paddle board, or bicycle, or other gear on your local garage sale site. There are also many sites such as www.gearswap.com where you can buy or sell gear specific to your pastime. That way you can at least try it for a bit to make sure you are going to use it often before you invest in something better.
You can also check out the local pawn shop. Especially if you live in or near a resort town. Those pawn shops are often loaded with great gear that has been very slightly used.
Pawn shops and garage sales are where you find the stuff that someone else bought with the thought that they would use something often enough to buy it, then found it just taking up space. You don’t want to be that guy, you just want to follow that guy. Everyone knows someone who bought a great treadmill, float tube, or tent, then stored it in their garage without using it for years. And who really cares if it’s last year’s model anyway?
Don’t be afraid of used gear. If it was made well in the first place, it should still work well. Some people don’t use things a lot or want the newest model every year. You can often find really good used or barely used gear that will fit your needs just fine.
E-bay is a great place to find these deals. Look at online forums too. Not only can you find used gear, you get access to some of the experts in the field, others who have tried out assorted brands and know what works best.
Think scratched/dented sections. I personally love the section at Sierra Trading Post that has the “damaged” items at markdown. I can sew on a missing button myself for a dirt-cheap price on a great jacket. I once bought a $99 coat for $27 because it had a black mark on it that I still haven’t been able to find. Item closeouts and returns can be a lot of fun to pick through. If you are looking at defective items, find the defect first to make sure that it isn’t something you can’t deal with. Replacing zippers can be tricky to do yourself and costly to have someone else do. Know what needs fixed, if anything, before you buy.
If you do find you are using something a lot and are ready to invest in better equipment, do your research to find your best deal. I advocate shopping local, so give your local stores a chance to price match. Check www.amazon.com to be able to price-check several various sources. Sometimes waiting until the end of the season, or when the new models come out can mean significant savings on last year’s inventory. I always buy my running shoes after a newer model has come out, a lot of times very little has changed and those changes don’t affect me anyway.
Be willing to research, check deals, and be patient. Spontaneity is your budget’s worst enemy. Make sure you are going to use something enough to justify spending money on it, then make sure you get the very best deal for your money. Living by a budget and avoiding debt doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, it just means you might have to be a little more creative to do it. Happy hunting!